What is a Master's Degree?

Student holding book in library

Once you have completed your undergraduate degree, a Master’s degree program is an excellent way to dive deeper into a subject area and make yourself even more marketable to a potential employer. More than 820,000 Master’s degrees are awarded each year in the USA, according to Education Data Initiatives, and being one of those graduates helps you to be competitive in your chosen field.

Follow on From Your Undergraduate Success with a Master's Degree

The USA is a great place to continue your higher education at Master's level, you will gain specialist knowledge and a competitive advantage in the global job market. Master of Business Administration (MBA) degrees in the USA are renowned for giving graduates a huge competitive advantage and unequaled opportunities in the global job market, and Master of Science (MS) in Computer Science degrees continue to grow in popularity with an average starting salary of $85,373USD (Statista, 2021). Also, a Master's degree is often a professional requirement for a career in engineering or health sciences.  

Structure of Master's Programs in North America

Length of Study

Master’s programs vary in length depending on the number of academic credits that must be completed. Most Master's degrees are studied for two years and require between 30 and 36 academic credit hours, if the university uses a semester calendar. At DePaul, where the academic year is broken into quarters, you will study for the same length of time but your final academic credits will typically range from 48 to 52 credits. Studying on the quarter-system at DePaul allows you to take more credits.

Some professional degree programs require more academic credits for graduation, such as the Juris Doctorate (law degree) at DePaul, which requires 86 academic credits.

Teaching and Learning

Unlike undergraduate degrees, where you take a broad range of courses in addition to your major, graduate degrees are focused on a specific field of study. To complete a Master's degree, in addition to learning in class, you may need to complete a capstone project – a final project that summarizes what you have learned during your degree program – or you may have the option to submit a ‘thesis,’ which is an academic paper on an extended research project.

You can choose from a number of Master's degree programs in the USA. Some of the more popular programs include business, computer science, data science, or finance, or you may choose a program that emerging areas, like artificial intelligence, business analytics, or cybersecurity.

MBA (Master of Business Administration)

The MBA is often considered the gold standard in business education. The program teaches you the broad principles and standards of business management, building skills in business analytics, strategy development, business technology, and leadership. MBA candidates demonstrate drive, professional commitment, and competence to successfully handle a wide range of senior and executive level roles. Most MBA programs are two years in duration.

At DePaul, the MBA offers multiple concentrations that can help you further your degree studies. You can choose to focus on

  • Accountancy
  • Applied Economics
  • Business Analytics
  • Business Strategy & Decision Making
  • Custom MBA
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Finance
  • Healthcare Markets & Analytics
  • Hospitality Leadership
  • International Business
  • Management
  • Management Information Systems
  • Marketing
  • Marketing Strategy & Planning
  • Real Estate Finance & Investment
  • Strategy, Execution & Valuation

Successful MBA graduates have greater appeal for potential employers and experience broadened opportunities across a variety of business environments. Graduates also often enjoy significantly higher lifetime earnings than non-MBA graduates; DePaul MBA graduates earn a median salary of $85,000USD and go on to work at companies like CME Group, J. P. Morgan, Jones Lang LaSalle, McDonald’s Corporation, PepsiCo, and Target Corporation.

Master’s in Computer Science

The Master's in Computer Science often offers students the option to gain training in the foundations of the field, learn programmatic applications, and research areas like data mining and scientific computing. At DePaul, MS in Computer Science students choose a concentration area and earn a minimum of 16 credit hours in one of these areas:

  • Artificial Intelligence
  • Data Science
  • Database Systems
  • Development
  • Game and Real-Time Systems
  • Human-Computer Interaction
  • Software and Systems
  • Software Engineering
  • Theory

The MS in Computer Science is a STEM-designated degree. Successfully completing this degree program may qualify you to extend your post-graduation Optional Practical Training by up to 24 months.

Computer Science graduates gain advanced expertise in creating and maintaining secure and reliable computer systems and user interfaces. Career options include a wide range of industries for software development and programming, and DePaul MS in Computer Science graduates work at Amazon, Microsoft, the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, KPMG, and Qualcomm.

Master's in Data Science

Studying Data Science allows students to gain the technical knowledge and advanced computational skills. As Master’s students, they will learn to manage and analyze complex data, develop models to support decision-making, and communicate analytical results in a manner that is clear for nontechnical audiences. At DePaul, MS in Data Science students work on real-world applications and focus on analyzing complex data sets. DePaul is home to the Center for Data Science, which encourages collaborations between the university, industries, and nonprofit organizations. Together, faculty and students conduct analytics projects to solve today’s problems.

This is a STEM-designated degree. With an MS in Data Science, graduates can obtain positions such as Actuarial Analyst, Data Scientist, Full Stack Developer, Marketing Data Scientist, and Senior Artificial Intelligence Engineer. DePaul’s Data Science graduates work at IBM, Deloitte, Aon, BMO Financial, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Allstate, and Wayfair, among other top companies.

Master's in Finance

If you want to earn an education that expands beyond the broad applications of an MBA, the MS in Finance may be for you. This Master's degree – a STEM-designated degree at DePaul - teaches students to develop strategic financial objectives, design financial instruments, and manage corporate risk. As an MS in Finance graduate, you will have skills in financial decision-making techniques, solution development, and developing proposals for profitability and productivity.

At DePaul, Finance students have access to many industry-related centers to help them understand real-world financial problems. These centers include the Arditti Center for Risk Management, the Center for Financial Services, and the Driehaus Center for Behavioral Finance. DePaul graduates use their Finance Master’s degrees in positions at Allstate, Chase Bank, Charles Schwab Corporation, McDonald’s Corporation, and PricewaterhousCoopers.

Master's in Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning Specialists are ranked as the Number 1 emerging, high-demand jobs in the USA (World Economic Forum, 2020). Earning a Master of Science in Artificial Intelligence can help you be more competitive in this increasingly popular field. At DePaul, graduate students in Artificial Intelligence (AI) learn how to use AI in areas like natural language processing, big data systems, computer vision, image processing, robotics, and cybersecurity. Students become AI professionals by learning advanced technical skills, both in AI and in machine learning. They create complex intelligent systems and integrate AI with applications and processes that already exist.

MS in Artificial Intelligence graduates can pursue jobs in cybersecurity, healthcare, manufacturing, and more. This program is a STEM-designated degree at DePaul.

Master's in Business Analytics

A degree in Business Analytics teaches graduate students to become financial professionals with exceptional data analysis skills. The MS in Business Analytics is housed in DePaul’s Kellstadt Graduate School of Business, where students learn from expert professors and use their own research and case studies to solve business problems from the real world. At DePaul, there are five industry areas for Business Analytics students to focus: computer science, data science, economic analysis, hospitality, and supply chain management.

The MS in Business Analytics degree is a STEM-designated degree, and DePaul graduates have gone on to work at AlRajhi Bank; Creative Werks, LLC; KeHE Distributors; and The Marketing Store, North America. Learn about what career opportunities are available to MS in Business Analytics students.

Master's in Cybersecurity

The MS in Cybersecurity is the degree for you if you want to learn how to support security policy and network architecture and prepare for a position as an application security engineer, a cyber solutions consultant, an information security engineer, or a network administrator, among other careers. You will design, implement, and maintain systems that help mitigate risk and prevent cyber-attacks.

At DePaul, the MS in Cybersecurity includes three concentrations: Computer Security; Governance, Risk Management, and Compliance; and Networking and Infrastructure. To support Cybersecurity students, there are many labs and research centers, including the CDM Security Lab, which houses more than 100 routers, over 60 switches, 90 firewalls, and a range of servers and specialized network appliances.

DePaul is a National Center of Academic Excellence in Cybersecurity, as designated by the Department of Homeland Security and the National Security Agency. Cybersecurity students at DePaul can join the Security Daemons student club, which is very active in competitions on campus and across the USA. In 2021, the Security Daemons won second place at the national Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition (CCDC).

DePaul’s MS in Cybersecurity is a STEM-designated degree. Graduates go on to work at Cisco Systems, Inc.; Deloitte; Discover Financial Services; Paylocity; and Unisys Corporation, among others.